Dubai: UAE national football team coach Mahdi Ali believes that additional cash flow into the game will not only help bolster sporting foundations, but also help the country scale new heights.
On Thursday, telecoms operator etisalat announced its sponsorship of the UAE national team and the President’s Cup for an additional three years.
“We need the private sector to be involved. Companies such as etisalat have shown the way and others should follow. With such support, we have seen the results among all UAE national teams in recent times,” Ali told the media here on Thursday.
Asked to name one quality that has propelled the UAE to the top of Asian football, Ali said: “I think it is continuity and careful planning that has helped us to be where we are. We have seen the difference in the national team performances [over] the past few years. Not only has the senior team done well, the Olympic side and the youth team has also fared well,” the national coach pointed out.
The UAE are currently heading Group E for the 2015 Asian Cup qualifiers with six points after two matches, after 2-1 wins against Vietnam and Uzbekistan in February and March this year. The UAE next face Hong Kong, currently lying second in the group with four points, at the 40,000-seater Hong Kong Stadium on October 15.
“It’s not surprising to see Hong Kong in second spot, but it’s a bit too early in the qualifying [rounds]. Hong Kong has done well so far and it’s good they have moved the match to a bigger stadium as we too enjoy giving a good account of ourselves,” Ali said.
The UAE squad is scheduled to assemble in Dubai on September 28 before travelling for a short camp in China the following day. There are a couple of friendlies lined up, with the UAE first meeting Laos on October 5 followed by a game against Malaysia on October 9.
“We will land in Hong Kong a couple of days before our match [on October 15] so that we can have at least a couple of training sessions to acclimatise ourselves,” he narrated.
Ali has been buoyed up with the return from injury of the experienced Esmail Mattar and Hamdan Al Kamali.
“At the same time I am thinking of injecting new blood into the squad so that they can get adjusted to our system and philosophy of play,” Ali said.